9 Best Beaches in Bradenton, FL

Written by Michael Law
May 10, 2024

Bradenton is a low-key city that is more than happy to let big, brash, Tampa soak up the limelight. The folks here know they have a good thing going and are happy to share it with those who like a place with lots of things to see and do.

Heading to the beach is a popular pastime and, fortunately, this is an easy task. A short drive across one of two causeways brings you to some of the best beaches in Florida. Seven miles of powdery white sand lapped by the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico await you, your umbrella, and your lounge chair.

Head south to this delightful city and plan your beach getaway with our list of the best beaches in Bradenton.

1. Coquina Beach

Coquina Beach
Coquina Beach | Photo Copyright: Michael Law

Located at the southern tip of Anna Maria Island, Coquina Beach is the best beach near Bradenton. A long, slender stretch of soft white sand greets you, and the toughest decision you'll have is where to set up your beach gear.

Do you set up in the central area of the beach? The answer here is yes if you crave a bit of a scene, volleyball courts, and more services. Anchoring the beach here is the famous Coquina Beach Café. Its legendary patio is considered one of the best beachfront places in southern Florida. Don't worry if you don't have any beach gear — lounge rentals and umbrellas are readily available.

Or, perhaps you have all your gear and a family and want a place that's a bit more sedate. In this case, head to the southern end of the beach. Down here you'll find several large pavilions and a playground for the kids. This is also a great place to set up if you are into shelling; the large jetty at the end captures all kinds of interesting beach finds.

Maybe you'd like a mix of all three and you like to walk on the beach. In that case, head to the northern end of the beach. This area is moderately busy, and if you walk northwards, you'll end up on Cortez Beach, where you might see some local surfers doing their thing.

All three areas are backed by towering Australian pine trees that provide a welcome break from the intensity of the Florida sun. No matter where you choose, rest assured that lifeguards will be keeping an eye on you if you enter the water.

2. Cortez Beach

Cortez Beach
Cortez Beach | Photo Copyright: Michael Law

If you've packed your surfboard for your trip to Bradenton, then you should make sure that you head to Cortez Beach to catch the best waves in the region. This beach, sandwiched between Bradenton Beach to the north and Coquina Beach to the south, is a surfing hotspot.

The three concrete piers that extend into the ocean here create swells that are just perfect for riding. It's important to manage expectations; the waves are not Hawaiian-sized, but they are pretty decent for the Gulf of Mexico.

If surfing isn't your thing, the beach is still a pretty sweet spot to head for a day in the sun. The beach is generally pretty quiet, with most people setting up either north or south. The main reason for this is that parking can be a bit of a challenge. Should you see a spot as you cruise along Gulf Drive South, immediately grab it and consider yourself lucky!

Cortez Beach is one of the best places to go fishing when visiting Bradenton. The concrete piers attract all manner of fish. You may find snapper, grouper, snook, or even a trout at the end of your fishing line.

3. Manatee Public Beach

Manatee Beach
Manatee Beach | Photo Copyright: Michael Law

If you are directionally challenged but still love going to the beach, you can't help but end up on Manatee Public Beach. All you need to do is get on Highway 64 and head west over the Palma Sola Causeway. The road deadends at the beach parking lot.

This massive beach is one of the best beaches on Anna Maria Island and a popular destination for Bradenton's residents and winter visitors. This white-sand beach is wide, a rarity along this coast, and all that space is put to good use. A large number of sand volleyball courts are permanently set up here, and the beach hosts frequent tournaments and leagues.

For those with young children who may grow bored of the sand and water, a large playground with interesting structures is located at the back of the beach. If you can, grab a table at the beachside restaurant and soak up the views while wriggling your toes in the sand under your table.

An impressive two-story-high lifeguard station ensures that a watchful eye is cast on all beachgoers.

Parking, which can be challenging at other beaches, is easy here, and the beach boasts a good assortment of services, including changerooms, showers, and restrooms.

4. Bean Point Beach

Bean Point Beach
Bean Point Beach | Photo Copyright: Michael Law

If you crave true solitude and don't mind expending a bit of effort to access it, then Bean Point is your beach. Located at the northern tip of Anna Maria Island, this wild and wonderful beach is untouched and untrammeled.

Bring all your own gear and a sense of adventure when visiting. You won't find any lifeguards, chair or umbrella rentals, restrooms, or services of any kind.

The beach is exceptionally wide, and with the natural vegetation at the back, it's easy to think that this is what Florida used to look like way back when. Find your spot and settle in to enjoy the spectacular views out over the Gulf of Mexico.

An interesting walk can be had by walking northwards and around to the east. It's here that you'll be able to see the waters of the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay combine.

Swimming here is only recommended on the eastern side; the northern side has strong currents. This beach is a popular place for kiteboarders, wingers, and windsurfers. If the wind is up, you'll be treated to a visual feast when their colorful kites paint the sky as they race back and forth.

Parking for Bean Point Beach is quite challenging. The first access is off North Shore Drive where it meets Fern Street. The second access is where North Shore Drive meets Gladiolus Street. It's recommended that you go early to find parking, or for the more adventurous, walk three and a half miles (one-way) from Manatee Public Beach.

5. Bradenton Beach

Bradenton Beach
Bradenton Beach | Photo Copyright: Michael Law

Reader beware! Bradenton Beach is not actually located in Bradenton. It's located, like all the other beaches, on Anna Maria Island. This beach is fantastic in many ways. Not only does it have white sand and clear waters, but it also has a historic town tucked in behind.

The beach is generally quite busy, which gives it a fun vibe, especially if you enjoy a bit of people-watching. No need to pack a lunch; just stroll across the street and grab a bite at any one of the many restaurants lining the main street. Or, throw in a change of clothes and stop in at the Beach House Waterfront Restaurant for a meal while the sun sets.

This is a favorite beach for those who love to walk along the seashore. If you head south you'll eventually meet up with Cortez Beach and, farther south, Coquina Beach. If you head north, you'll soon join up with Holmes Beach and Manatee Beach beyond that. If you want solitude on your walk, head north; if you want company, head south.

Parking is a challenge here. It's best to park down the way at Cortez Beach and either walk to the beach or catch the free shuttle that runs on a regular basis.

6. Holmes Beach

Homes Beach
Holmes Beach | Photo Copyright: Lana Law

How about a beach that few people know about that generally doesn't make it onto the tourist maps but is still spectacularly beautiful? Well, this place exists, and it's a short drive from downtown Bradenton. The name of this secret beach is Holmes Beach, and it's located midway down Anna Maria Island.

This stretch of beach is quiet and is backed by private homes, luxury resorts, and a few low-rise condo complexes. You'll likely have the place to yourself. The only other company may be the occasional beach walker and a few seagulls. You won't find any lifeguards or other services, but what you will find is blindingly white sand and crystal-clear water.

With the lack of people, aquatic life is more prolific. Don't be surprised to see flocks of manta rays swimming in the shallows or the occasional dolphin just offshore.

Access is easy, and owing to the beach's anonymity, parking is generally not hard to find. Just look for a spot on a side street off Avenue E or F.

7. Bayfront Park Public Beach

Bayfront Park Public Beach
Bayfront Park Public Beach | Photo Copyright: Michael Law

Bayfront Park Public Beach is unlike other Bradenton beaches. Here it's less about the sand and surf and more about the facilities.

The beach is quite narrow and faces north, which, depending on the winds, means that it is generally quite calm. The sand is soft, and the water quite shallow, making it a good spot for wading and lolling about on floaties.

This lovely beach (and park) has loads of green space and large trees, making it an ideal location for a family picnic. The expansive lawns are perfect for a game of football, soccer, or Frisbee. The large trees are wonderful places to set up a lawn chair and settle into a good book in the shade.

Load the car up with barbecue supplies, as the park offers free use of the equipment. Nearby picnic tables are good places to lay out a spread and feed your hungry crew. Supplement your picnic with treats and fresh food from the farmers market that takes place every Tuesday from 8:30am to 2:30pm.

Or, if you'd rather, just walk a short distance down North Bay Boulevard to one of the restaurants and enjoy a meal on the patio. Post lunch, take a stroll out on the pier and enjoy the expansive views out toward the Bob Graham Sunshine Skyway Bridge.

8. Longboat Key Public Access North

Longboat Key Public Access North
Longboat Key Public Access North | Photo Copyright: Michael Law

Longboat Key is really just one massive beach running for nearly 11 miles. The challenge is getting on to it. Tightly controlled access points with limited or no parking are the norm, unfortunately. However, one of the larger and easier spots to access the beach is located close to Bradenton, just over the Longboat Pass Bridge.

This beach area is delightful, with a large arc of sand extending northwards to Longboat Key Pass in one direction, and to the south, just over 10 miles of uninterrupted white-sand paradise. No facilities are located here, so bring all your gear with you.

Fortunately, the beach access road extends right to the shoreline, making unloading and loading all your stuff easy. Parking is limited to around 30 cars, so go early to assure yourself a spot. If you don't get a spot, don't worry. Coquina Beach is just across the bridge to the north, and the massive parking lot located here always has spots.

9. Palma Sola Causeway

Palma Sola Causeway beach
Palma Sola Causeway beach | Photo Copyright: Michael Law

The main access to Anna Maria Island is across the Palma Sola Causeway. If you want to get to a beach fast, where you can park your car on the sand and settle into your beach chair in mere minutes, this is your spot.

The beach is decent, but not spectacular by Florida standards. But that's a high standard. Most people from farther north will be impressed with the sand and shallow, warm waters. The water is usually flat and calm, making it a good place to visit if you have young children and don't want to deal with the surf of the larger beaches.

Stand up paddleboarding is popular here as is kayaking. The inland waters are easy to navigate, and the shallow water and ability to park on the sand make launching your gear a breeze. Be sure to pack your shore-fishing gear — the bite is pretty good along here as well.

The best part of the beach is to the southeast. Be very careful crossing the road; the traffic almost never ceases.